Tag Archives: lessons

Oh, you had to know there would be more…………

Yesterday, I wrote these little parenting tips based on my vast experience in parenting non-success. And it’s not because I think I am a wicked smart parent. There’s too much evidence to the contrary for me to even try to believe that. 😎  I shared them simply because I wish someone had told me about these lessons before I figured the little nuggets out on my own (usually too late to use them).

After I hit publish, more ideas came to mind. Which is evidence of the number one rule in parenting – you are never really done. 😎

Anyparent, I thought would share some more ideas…

  • Your child does not need an orange plastic pumpkin for trick or treating. A pillow case will do just fine. And, by the by, even a small pillow case has a much bigger candy capacity than a large plastic pumpkin. (That will bode well for parents, too.) And, not for nothin’, there is not a single place your house that will work well for storing a large plastic pumpkin for the 364 days, 23 hours and 15 minutes that you will not be needing it. However, a pillow case tucks neatly back into the linen closet.
  • I think it is perfectly acceptable for teenagers to trick or treat, as long as they are dressed up and not playing mean pranks on the smaller goblins. Just have them make/buy their own costume. Kids grow up way too fast and if they want to (respectfully) do something childish, let them.
  • My kids don’t really like most of the candy they get on Halloween, so we very often donate the massive leftovers to the local hospital, fire/police station, or school office.
  • At some point, your children are going to lie to you. Maybe in a little way – maybe in a big way – maybe even in little and big ways – but it’s gonna happen.
  • Choosing not to breastfeed does not doom your children to remedial math.
  • Having a c-section does not mean you failed as a woman/mother.
  • When buying a blanket for your newborn baby, get (at least) two identical blankets. Yes, that is in case you lose/misplace/aliens steal one. Make sure you wash the spare whenever you wash the original so that they “feel” the same. You will thank me for this later. I promise. There is not a parent on this planet who can keep track of a baby’s blanket 24/7 for the number of years required to never have a special blankie go missing at exactly the worst possible moment for said blankie to go missing.
  • When you take your children to the grocery store (which you absolutely should do every now and then – even though it is easier not to), let them pick out just one thing. If they ask for something else, tell them they can have it but they have to put their other choice back. This is an invaluable lesson in not getting everything and making choices. When you are feeling really cocky, give them a spending limit. A relatively low spending limit.
  • When they are old enough, make your kids pay for some of their own things. It is amazing how quickly desires weaken when they are attached to the child’s own wallet.
  • If another parent or a teacher or a church leader has something not so fabulous to say about your child, listen to what they have to say. You do not have to agree with them. You do not have to like what they have to say. You don’t have to invite them over for dinner. But if another adult takes the time and energy to invest in helping your child, at least listen. Approaching a mama bear about her cub is dangerous business and if someone is willing to put him/herself out there, you should at least be receptive to hearing (and then digesting) what they have to say.
  • Having said that, no one knows your child as well as you do. If you believe that your child needs something, do not be afraid to ask for it. You will ultimately be your child’s biggest critic and but you must also be his/her biggest advocate. It is a tricky balance but you are best suited for it. And no one else is going to do it for you.
  • When your child talks to you, stop what you are doing and look them in the eyes and listen – just as you want them to do for you.
  • Teach your children the difference between emergencies – “the world is ending” is not the same as “I stubbed my toe”. Patience really is a virtue. And teaching your child to not interrupt adult conversations just because they want to, is a gift that will last them a lifetime. (And when you figure out the magic trick on this one, please share.)
  • Bandaid baskets are magical. Always have one at the ready. Nothing makes a child feel better than having a boo boo taken seriously. Let your child sit on the counter so s/he is face-to-face with you and go all Florence Nightengale on his/her scratches. The bandaids will mend the scrapes – the attention will mend everything else. Sometimes the boo boo doesn’t really hurt that bad, but your child just might need a break from the chaos that caused it.
  • Just because you can, does not mean you should. Sometimes parents should just make do when making do is good enough. Not everything has to be bigger and better and more sparkly. There is tremendous value in being happy with what you already have vs. always getting everything else you want.

And that is enough of what I have learned. If you have more to share, please do!

What I Didn’t Know Then………

My parenting journey is a long, long way from being complete. But, even though I know I have a lot to learn, I do feel wiser than I used to think I was. Huh? Yeah, I have (finally) learned some things that make my parenting life easier.

One of the most important things that I have realized is that my children keep my worry chest busy enough. I don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about how little Johnny’s parents handle Johnny. And I can cross my fingers that Johnny’s parents won’t have an opinion about my parenting – but that is simply a waste of time. As a parent you will be criticized by other parents. Don’t take it personally. It is just your turn. Someone else will get a turn soon enough.

As a parent, you only have to follow your heart and intuition and do what you believe is right for your kids.  Even if it is in direct conflict with what other parents are doing or not doing. Trust your gut.

Along those lines, trust your kids instincts, too. It’s definitely hard when your kids don’t necessarily want to play with the children of your friends. But forcing friendships isn’t any easier. It makes for stressful play dates and stressful mommies. And moms can be friends even when kids aren’t.

Sooner than you can even imagine, your little munchkins will be in school all day and you can connect with your friends over lunch. Steering clear of uncomfortable friendships will be much more important for your kiddos later in life. A little practice at articulating how they feel is a good, good thing – even if it makes us uncomfortable because they might not come across as being “nice”. Allowing them to trust their instincts will help them to follow through on those feelings when you aren’t right there.

Teaching kids to be gracious is extremely important but being nice at their own expense might not be such a great lesson to learn.

Another little tidbit that I personally learned the hard way is that words don’t taste so good going back down. Never (yep, never) say “I would never ……… ” Or even worse, “My child would never…….” Because guess what happens next? I will give you one guess. 😉

Yes, my youngest child has a cell phone and has played the Xbox game Call of Duty (maybe even more than once) – and she has seen almost all of the Harry Potter movies. Are you asking, “isn’t she only 9?” Maybe.

Are you now asking if I swore that Harry Potter was way too dark for my son when he was 9 and that 9 was ridiculously young for any type of personal electronics? Maybe. Possibly. Burp. So sorry, please pardon me.

And seriously, you simply cannot make your child faster, taller, smarter, funnier, prettier, or any other “er”. But the good news is that they are fabulous just as they are. Most children learn to read. Most children talk. Most children walk. When they hit about third grade, it has pretty much leveled out. The rock stars aren’t rocking as hard and the average-to-slow kids are catching up. The early readers are reading, but so are the late bloomers. Pretty much everyone has given up diapers and pacifiers. And hard work begins to matter as much as, if not more than, natural ability. And don’t go bringing up the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. You know what I mean.

And speaking of reading. It is important to read with your children because it is fun to do it. They love the attention you give them when you share a book with them. It does help them learn to read. But it is not so important for you to stress out about teaching them to read. They will learn to read. (If you don’t believe me, reread the paragraph above. Oh yea, that’s me talking too. Sorry. Ask a parent of an older child. Oh, you don’t know about that yet? Please keep reading.)

It’s also extremely helpful for you to have adult friends with older kids. They have a better perspective on what is really important to worry about with smaller children. And they will tell you what is important to know about school and classes and teams and all the stuff you will be dealing with in the next phase of parenting.  They will be gentle with you because they have been there but they might laugh a tiny bit – don’t worry, they are not being critical – it’s just that they are remembering when. And their kids can babysit for you. Bonus.

I personally feel (and no, I am not a teacher, doctor, or educator – so this is just my opinion) that the single most important thing you can teach your kids is confidence. If your kids feel safe trying something new no matter how it turns out, they will always be successful. If they are not intimidated by people, places, or activities, they have a tremendous advantage. Tremendous. Children who are smart but are afraid of failure will face more challenges than those children who are “average” but brave and confident. Children need to know that their parents will love them no matter what. And parents, we need to love our children no matter what. Home should be a safe place to fall. And get up and fall. Again. And again. Always. Every time.

When our children are learning to walk, we encourage them to stumble and tumble. We let them go boom on the concrete and bump off of coffee tables. Even when they fall and cry, we say “get back up, you can do it.” We don’t say, “why didn’t you walk better?” We are proud and we smile and we hold out both hands and we hug them tightly. That should never, ever change.

Not too long ago I read a passage that went something like …. intelligence is not measured best when children know what to do, it is measured best by how children respond when they do not know what to do. (Yes, I wish I knew who said it – but I don’t -sorry.)

And when you are proud, tread lightly on the bragging. If you believe you have an exceptional child and you are sharing how fabulous your child is with another parent, please keep in mind that they most likely feel that their child is (at least) equally as exceptional as your little superstar.

Hey, I never said this parenting stuff was easy. It’s all a tricky balance.

I actually had a parent try to convince me that her child was better at the dentist than my child was. I started to defend how well my child handled the dentist when I quickly realized how nuts the conversation was. Seriously? We are competing over who handles the dentist better? Really. I am quite sure there are more important quandaries to tackle.I don’t know like civil unrest in Libya – Tsunamis in Japan – poverty anywhere – the civil unrest in my laundry room. Blah Blah Blah.

Parenting will probably be the hardest thing you ever do. You will bleed love for your kids and, at some point, one of  your beloveds will stand at the top of the stairs and scream at the top of their lungs that they hate you. And they will mean it. For a little while at least. But not forever. And you will cry and laugh and love and fear and rejoice more than you ever have before. Put that seatbelt on. It’s going to be a fabulously bumpy ride.

On Track…………….

Many of the differences of living in India hit you hard and fast. But some of them emerge slowly over time and creep into your everyday life.

One such change was the availability of sports teams for my kids. Now I promise this is not a post about how my kids are rock stars and how they were cheated by not having adequate sports opportunities in India. It is not an “if only” post. India us taught a lot of things including how to adjust. And in many, many ways stepping back was a tremendous gift.

Before we left the U.S., my kids played soccer year round and swam year round. In between they played basketball. They were busy every day, every night, and every weekend. That came to a screeching halt with the plane when we landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Sports seasons are only eight weeks long at best and we missed the swimming season totally and got on the wait list for soccer. But, you guessed it, we never got called to teams.

The first real season my son could participate in was track. Eager to get moving again, Bear signed right up. He had done a tiny bit of track in the U.S. – maybe three or four practices and one mini meet – but he was by no means accomplished.

One of the things that makes me the most proud of my kids is not when they succeed but how they handle new challenges. They are not intimidated by trying new things and they are not intimidated by not being the best at something. It is really awesome to watch.  If you are someone who is mainly concerned with your child winning, step back and watch how they lose or what they won’t try because they are afraid of losing. It really is a more important skill. To be graceful in defeat. I would argue it will get you much further in life than always winning.

But I digress.

Bear went to practices and got better and worked really, really hard. It was not easy and he didn’t particularly enjoy all of it. But he never gave up. He showed up everyday in the 100 plus degree heat and he ran and jumped and threw the discus. He was way out of his comfort zones.

The team was narrowed down to seven athletes. And would once more be narrowed to the final five official members of the team with an alternate. Bear was one of the seven.

He continued to go to practices and gave it all he had. When the final five were chosen, Bear was number six. And he was justifiably disappointed. He had done his best and it was not enough to compete. He was not used to that at all.

That night there was a party for the 6th graders at one of the kid’s houses. I was thrilled that he wanted to go because he was already starting to separate from his disappointment.

But this was a new experience for me. I did not know the parents who were hosting the party or the kids or the neighborhood or what to expect.

I told Bear he could go but that I would take him and I had to meet the parents to know that adults would be home. This wasn’t his day at all. Not only did he not make the final team, now his mother had to accompany him to a middle school party in the land of everyone else is driven by their drivers and dropped off. It turns out that out of 100 kids in 6th grade, only two parents went in to make sure parents were there. It was truly a whole new world for me.

Poor Bear.

But he knows me well and did not fight it.

What a gift that ride to the party was.

Because I was not driving, I had the chance to talk to Bear without any distractions. We both sat in the back seat in the dark and talked. Even the dark was a gift because he did not have to really look at me, just listen and periodically mumble, “I know Mom”.

I told him how proud I was of him for trying something new and that I was amazed by how he handled this whole move to India. I bored him with my thoughts on how he should still be so proud of himself because it is the journey that counts and that I completely understood why he was disappointed. I even said that he had a right to be disappointed but that he had to understand that the coach was picking the best team he could. It wasn’t personal. And it did not mean he didn’t do an amazing job.

Then we heard…tap…tap….tap.

We both knew what it was. It had already become a too familiar sound. Someone was knocking on our window to ask for food or money. We were becoming a little immune to it, sadly. Immune is not the right word – maybe we were allowing ourselves some distance from it.

This is one of the hardest things to admit about poverty. When you are living in the middle of it everyday, you allow yourself to ignore it. You feel helpless and there are times when you will actually be irritated by the fact that someone is struggling. At times, you will become dismissive and even rude to a person who is starving and homeless. Even a young child.

Gulp. You will actually resent that someone needs help. And you resent it not because you don’t care but because you feel so overwhelmed by it. That is the hard reality of living comfortably in a poor country. You cannot pretend real poverty does not exist because you slide through it every single day but you have absolutely no impact on it. Helping doesn’t change it and ignoring it makes you sick to your stomach.

We both turned to the window and could not see anyone there.

Bear looked down to find a man on a small, wheeled wooden box. He had no legs. He was unnaturally thin and dirty and had an empty look in his eyes. He had to brush his hands along the hot asphalt to move himself forward.

This is another thing that is incomprehensible. Even when someone who is living it is tapping on your window. You have to make a quick decision. Ignore it or help. I am not proud of how many times I chose “ignore”.

People who are really poor with absolutely nothing are willing to maim themselves because it makes them more competitive in the begging world. The more pathetic you seem, the more help you are likely to get.

We do not know if this man hurt himself or if he had an accident or if he was just born this way. But sometimes people really believe that their best option is to become as desperate-looking as possible and will damage their bodies to achieve that.

That is about as hopeless as it gets.

Bear and I looked down at the man and looked at each other and I simply said, “how much would that man love to be an alternate on the American Embassy School track team?”

That quickly became one of the many lessons we learned.

 

The bowl, the bell, and the therapy…………..

If you read Sufficient, then you know I met Fateh Singh. I wonder if I am taking it too far to say he changed my life. Well, maybe – but honestly, maybe it’s not. He reminded me of a few things that I had too easily let myself forget – and he shared a few things that I might not have ever have had in perspective in the first place.  I am “one of those” people who takes things too seriously and too personally and I get “caught up” in wasting my energy in the wrong ways on the wrong people. He certainly, at the very least, changed my week – and that was a tremendous gift. Smooches Fateh Singh.

So, I am writing this post to put down another lesson he taught me – to remember not to forget – that my energy is too precious to waste on those who could care less about it anyway. And I pinky swear promise that this blog is not trying to take over where Oprah and Dr. Phil leave off – but I need to keep it all in perspective. Maybe a tiny reminder is good for all of us.

Fateh: What is the most precious thing in your life?
Me: That is a no-brainer – my family. period.
Fateh: I will prove you wrong on that one.
Me: You don’t know me well, but I wish you a big fat dose of luck with that one.
Fateh: Okay. Are you ready?
Me: Bring. it. on.
Fateh: What is the one thing you cannot live without?
Me: Again, my family. Is this “life lessons – the remedial course”?
Fateh: That is the wrong answer.
Me: How So?
Fateh: What about breath?
Me: Damn you, that is true.
Fateh: Without breath you cannot enjoy your family.
Me: yeah, yeah, yeah – note to self – do not challenge Fateh in spiritual lessons. You will win big but you will not get the answers right.
Fateh: You breathe in and out so easily that you forget you must do it. As long as you can breathe, you can enjoy the blessings of life, including your family.
Me: and without breath – not so much.
Fateh: Slowing your breath can center you – if you focus on the gift of breath – everything bothering you might seem less important.
Me: How much for the bowl, the bell, and the therapy? 😉